Evidence-Based Agriculture

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Southwest Virginia with VALOR Class V.  Even though I grew up in the mountains of Highland County, I can honestly say that I was impressed with the gorgeous views and landscapes of Grayson County and Carroll County.  One of the places that we visited was River Ridge Land and Cattle Co, a farm dedicated to producing high-quality, healthy food while protecting and preserving the land and water necessary to grow such commodities.  River Ridge Farm is owned by Charlotte Hanes, a woman passionate about land preservation, farm planning, grassroots efforts and sustainability.  One of the many pearls of wisdom that she shared with us during our visit was, “You have to change if you want to stay the same.”


Changing to stay the same…. This thought had me thinking for several days and weeks after our trip, trying to figure out Mrs. Hanes’ meaning and how to apply this philosophy to my everyday life.  I discussed it with my husband, my parents and my colleagues but kept coming up a little bit short. Finally, one day, while reading some literature at my office, it occurred to me how you change to stay the same. 

River Ridge Land and Cattle Co., Grayson Co.

In the healthcare world, every decision is based on science.  Years of research produce data that is interpreted to create evidence-based practices driving treatment protocols, decision trees and patient care algorithms.  As our understanding of the human body expands and technology changes, new evidence is developed that creates new recommendations.  However, the heart of patient care doesn’t change.  You still want to do no harm first and foremost.  You want to provide the best, most efficient care at the lowest cost.  You must adhere to the proposed guidance in order to maintain these expectations, hence changing your practice in order to remain a high quality, skilled and knowledgeable provider.

As an industry, agriculture is not that different.  Production methods now are not the same that they were when my parents or grandparents were starting their farms.  However, the goal is still to produce the highest yield, at the best quality, for the lowest cost of input, thereby making your farm sustainable.  Research facilities such as the ARECs run by Virginia Cooperative Extension work tirelessly producing the research that is then interpreted and put into practice by Extension Agents across the state working at the grassroots level with producers and growers.  If producers do not adapt to evidence based recommendations as technology and expectations change, they will not be able to maintain their foothold as a top yielding, high quality producer. 

Mrs. Charlotte Hanes sharing her wisdom with us.

So, my revelation is this: You do have to change to stay the same.  This is the fine print behind evidence-based practice.  In order to remain the same, sustainable, profitable producer that you currently are, you have to adjust and adapt to the science and evidence as it changes over time.

Burke’s Garden, Virginia – “God’s Thumpprint”

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